Ski area hosting Aug. 29 open house to share 10-year vision with community
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — With major projects like Montezuma Bowl, Black Mountain Lodge and a new patrol headquarter all done, Arapahoe Basin is looking toward updating its master plan.
The long-term future could include a zipline tour to help boost summer business, as well as a potential expansion of lift-served skiing into the Beavers, just west of the existing Pali terrain.
The alpine terrain of the Beavers area has long been a favorite stash of sidecountry skiers who use A-Basin’s lifts to gain altitude, then leave the ski area through a backcountry access point to reach the area, subsequently skiing back down to Highway 6.
A-Basin general manager and COO Alan Henceroth said the project could include figuring out a way for skiers to traverse back to the base of Pali from the bottom of the Beavers. Read Henceroth’s blog post about the master plan here.
Other enhancements could include a surface lift to ease the trip from the top of Lenawee to Montezuma Bowl, as well as an upping water storage for snowmaking.
Henceroth said the Beavers expansion would encompass about 400 acres, served by one new lift. The terrain would include a good chunk of intermediate skiing as well as some areas that would still be accessed by hiking. The Steep Gullies would be incorporated into the ski areas as double-black diamond extreme terrain.
The new master plan is nearing completion and Henceroth said he wants some community feedback before submitting it to the Forest Service. To that end, A-Basin will host an Aug. 29 open house, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Keystone Center (628 Sts. John Road in Keystone, Colorado). Forest Service staff from the Dillon Ranger District will also be on hand to answer questions.
Ski area master plans are updated about every 10 years. Since about five years ago, the plans are not developed under strict federal environmental laws that require alternatives and extensive public involvement.
Instead, the plans are seen as vision documents developed in partnership with the Forest Service. Some — but not all — resorts include community input as part of the planning process.
The Forest Service can accept the plan without formal opportunity for public involvement, but any subsequent site-specific implementation of projects does require formal review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
Other than blips like last season’s low-snow winter, A-Basin has seen visitation grow steadily in the past 10 years. The ski area benefits from a ticket and marketing partnership with Vail Resorts and from owners willing to invest in improving the skiing experience.
A-Basin is owned by Dundee Resort Development, a U.S. subsidiary of the Canadian company, Dundee Realty, which, according to its website, provides real estate services – including property management and leasing – to more than 30 million square feet of office, industrial and retail properties across Canada.
Dundee has owned A-Basin since 1997 when A-Basin was in play as part of the merger between Vail Resorts and Ralston Corp. Since then, the company has invested millions in upgrading A-Basin, including new lifts and lodges and expanded parking, as well as snowmaking that helped put the ski area on par with its bigger resort neighbors in Summit County.
With the help of snowmaking, and because of its high elevation, A-Basin is often one of the first North American ski areas to open and the last to close.